Examples of Visual Factory Implementation to Improve Manufacturing Productivity

Author Lewis Dixon, January 9, 2024

In the past decade, there have been many studies that discovered how the most efficient manufacturing plants are the most “visual” ones. A factory with more symbols, graphics, photos, and even animation rather than using text-based information tends to have more effective and efficient labor, which in turn results in a more productive manufacturing plant.

This idea of using visual information to streamline communication and delivery of information in manufacturing plants is called Visual Factory, a concept of Lean Management. Visual communication delivers information in a more direct, more engaging way while at the same time being more flexible than verbal and text-based communications.

Nowadays, Visual Factory—also often called “Visual Management”— has been adopted by many factories and businesses all across the globe and increasingly becoming more important in today’s multilingual and multicultural workforces.

In this article, we will discuss the concept of Visual Factory, as well as some examples of how Visual Factory can be implemented, along with their benefits.

 

What is Visual Factory?

Visual Factory, also called Visual Factory Management or just Visual Management, is a Lean Manufacturing term that refers to maximizing the usage of visual elements to deliver data and communications within the factory and the workplace.

Bottlenecks and inefficiencies in delivering and receiving information are the common issues for many companies, while at the same time, information is increasingly becoming a critical asset to enable a productive day-to-day operation. Not to mention, the more complex a business/manufacturing process is, the more critical information exchange will be in ensuring successful operations.

Visual Factory is a potential solution for this issue that is relatively accessible to any company and factory. By using visual elements like charts, signs and graphics, information can be delivered and received in a more direct and engaging way to improve efficiency and accuracy.

The benefits of Visual Factory implementation

The implementation of Visual Factory to ensure a more engaging and efficient information delivery can provide numerous benefits throughout the factory and the whole workplace, including but not limited to:

 

  1. Maximizing information accuracy and speed of delivery

When implemented correctly, Visual Factory will present information in a way that is easier to understand and comprehend. Anyone could easily keep track of a belt’s current performance even when they are located six feet away from the information board, which is impossible via text-based information delivery.

For example, the factory may choose to display up and down arrows with prominent green and red colors on a giant screen, allowing everyone in the factory to quickly check whether the current production has achieved its target or is still below the desired number.

In fact, a thorough implementation of Visual Factory could even eliminate the need for some regular meetings since clear information can be made accessible to everyone on the team in real-time.

 

  1. Improves workplace safety and minimizes errors

Visual Factory techniques could be implemented in various ways to improve factory/workplace safety, preventing potential errors by making it as easy as possible for workers to know what is safe to do and even making it impossible for workers to do the wrong thing.

For example, implementing flashing warning biohazard signs will make it very clear to workers that there’s an imminent danger ahead and that safety equipment is required beyond this point. 

 

  1. Enabling consistent, standardized operations

Implementation of Visual Factory methods would allow the factory to keep things running as designed to ensure consistent quality.

For example, we can use Visual Factory techniques to keep track of the outcome of a specific task in real-time, so workers can always check for any potential errors and make adjustments/improvements when needed.

Even simple Visual elements like signs stating where workers should enter and exit the plan can work wonders in ensuring things are running as intended.

 

  1. Prevents miscommunication and friction

Visual Factory implementation can help teams reduce miscommunications, which in turn can prevent friction.

By anticipating what information your team needs to know on a regular basis and/or critical information and delivering it in a visual manner, we can make sure different team members would interpret the information in the way it was intended. This is especially useful for facilitating communication between remote workers or team members in different shifts with little to no direct contact. 

For example, workers may leave storyboards for those on the next shift to highlight any trouble that occurred and any issue that the team is currently troubleshooting. This way, the team on the next shift can understand exactly what actions they’ll need to take during their shift, whether to continue working on the problem or not.

 

  1. Improve your team’s morale

The implementation of Visual Factory promotes transparency and accountability. Everyone on the team can see how the team is currently performing, how their own work is contributing to the overall objective, and how others are currently doing. 

All of these would help the whole team to feel more connected to the job at hand, improving their morale and, in turn, productivity. 

For instance, having a large monitor for publicly displaying important metrics and how the team is currently performing can help team members connect more to the team’s success and performance.

 

How to start implementing Visual Factory

In its most basic form, the implementation of Visual Factory would only require two basic steps:

  1. Identifying the specific information that needs to be conveyed

  2. Identifying how to deliver the information visually

To identify the information that needs to be delivered, the basic approach is to assess your manufacturing objective(s.) Then, you can compare the process’s current state against the desired future state according to the objective.

For example, the desired future state is to re-order parts when there are only 100 pieces left, and the current state is that there are still 200 pieces of the said part. 

By comparing this current and future state, we can decide that the best course of action is to use a production trigger board to schedule re-orders.

FOF-Man performing quality check

Examples of Visual Factory implementations

Below, we will discuss some examples of Visual Factory implementations in a factory that has implemented Lean Management principles. 

 

Visual Factory implementations to optimize production line

In a production line, visual cues could be used to improve efficiency and reduce waste. The goal of the Visual Factory implementation here is to make it easy for workers to see and understand the flow of materials and the status of the production.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Floor Markings: In a visual factory, the production line is divided into work cells with clear floor markings indicating the location of products and components. This allows for easy identification of excess production, breakdowns, and bottlenecks.

  2. Kanban Cards: Kanban cards are used to signal the need for production and can be used to track inventory levels and work-in-process (WIP) in a visual factory. They provide an easy way to see the flow of materials and identify bottlenecks.

  3. Andon Board: An Andon Board is a visual management system that displays the real-time status of the production line. It helps to indicate the machine status, production rate, and quality of the production. This system makes it easy for workers to see and understand the performance of the production line and take corrective actions when necessary.

  4. 5S Implementation: 5S is a visual management system that helps to keep the workplace clean, organized and safe. It includes 5 steps: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. It helps to reduce wasted time and increase productivity by eliminating unnecessary steps and making it easy to find what you need.

  5. Real-time Data Collection and monitoring: A visual factory can also use real-time data collection and monitoring of production line performance, such as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), downtime, and cycle time. This can provide a clear picture of the performance of the production line and help identify areas for improvement.

  6. Color-coding system: Color-coding system is another implementation of Visual Factory management, which helps to identify different products, materials, tools, and components quickly and easily.

 

Visual Factory implementation to assist problem-solving and Continuous improvement (Kaizen)

If your factory is adopting Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) framework, then Visual Factory could also be implemented to monitor the ongoing Continuous Improvement efforts, as well as to aid with the decision-making processes. 

Here are a few examples of visual tools that can be implemented in a factory setting to help identify problems, improve processes and make the production line more efficient.:

  1. Problem-solving boards: A problem-solving board is a visual tool that is used to identify and solve problems in the production line. It allows workers to quickly and easily report problems, such as equipment breakdowns or quality issues, and track the progress of their resolution. This helps to increase transparency and accountability, while also encouraging continuous improvement.

  2. Root Cause Analysis: Root cause analysis is a method of identifying the underlying causes of problems in the production line. It is a visual process that uses tools such as fishbone diagrams, 5 Whys, and Pareto charts to identify the root cause of the problem and develop a plan to resolve it.

  3. Kaizen events: Kaizen events are a form of continuous improvement that involve a team of workers focused on improving a specific process or area of the production line. They use visual tools such as process maps, flowcharts, and value stream maps to identify areas of waste and inefficiency, and then develop and implement solutions.

  4. Value Stream Mapping: Value Stream Mapping is a visual tool that helps to identify and eliminate waste in the production process. It is a way of identifying the flow of materials and information, and the activities that add value and those that don't. This helps to identify areas of waste and prioritize improvement efforts.

  5. Statistical Process Control (SPC) : SPC is a visual tool that helps to monitor and control the production process. It is used to collect data on the process and create control charts, which allow workers to quickly identify when the process is out of control and take corrective action.

  6. Visual Management Systems: Visual management systems, such as Andon boards, kanban boards, and real-time data collection and monitoring, are also powerful tools for continuous improvement and problem-solving. They provide real-time visibility into the production process and help identify issues early on, so they can be addressed quickly and effectively.

 

Visual Factory implementation to facilitate better communication and collaboration

Below are some examples of visual tools that can be implemented in a factory setting to help facilitate communication between different roles in the manufacturing plant: 

  1. Andon Boards: Andon boards are visual displays that provide real-time information on the status of the production line, such as machine status, production output, and quality metrics. This helps to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing a clear and concise overview of the current state of the production process.

  2. Kanban Boards: Kanban boards are visual tools that are used to manage the flow of materials and work-in-progress (WIP) in the production process. They help to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing clear and visual information on the status of the production process, such as which materials and products are currently in production and what the next steps are.

  3. Process Maps: Process maps are visual diagrams that show the flow of materials and information in the production process. They help to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing a clear and visual representation of the production process, including the inputs, outputs, and key activities at each step.

  4. Standardized Work Instructions: Standardized work instructions are visual documents that provide clear and concise instructions on how to perform a specific task or process. They help to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing a clear and consistent understanding of how a task or process should be performed.

  5. Daily Stand-up Meetings: Daily stand-up meetings are short, visual meetings where team members quickly share information and updates with each other. They help to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing an opportunity for team members to share information and discuss any issues or concerns in a timely manner.

  6. Real-time Data Monitoring Systems: Real-time data monitoring systems provide visual representations of data such as machine performance, production output, and quality metrics. They help to facilitate communication between different roles in the plant by providing a clear and visual representation of the production process, allowing for quick problem identification and resolution.

 

Visual Factory implementation for improving customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction today is no longer the exclusive responsibility of the marketing department and Public Relations but should start in the manufacturing process.

Here are some examples of Visual Factory implementation that can help improve customer satisfaction:

  1. Customer Feedback Boards: A visual display board that shows customer feedback and complaints in a transparent and visible way. This allows everyone in the plant to see the customer's perspective and work together to improve customer satisfaction.

  2. On-Time Delivery Boards: A visual display board that tracks the on-time delivery performance of the plant. This allows everyone to see the delivery performance, identify any issues and take action to improve on-time delivery and customer satisfaction.

  3. Customer Satisfaction Surveys: A visual representation of customer satisfaction survey results, such as a graph or chart, that allows everyone in the plant to see customer satisfaction levels and work together to improve customer satisfaction.

  4. Quality Metrics Boards: A visual display board that tracks key quality metrics, such as defects per unit or first-time yield. This allows everyone in the plant to see the quality performance and work together to improve quality and customer satisfaction.

  5. Root Cause Analysis Boards: A visual display board that shows the results of root cause analysis for customer complaints and issues. This allows everyone in the plant to see the underlying causes of customer dissatisfaction and work together to improve customer satisfaction.

  6. Customer Request Boards: A visual display board that tracks customer requests and allows everyone in the plant to see the customer's needs and work together to meet customer requirements and improve customer satisfaction.

  7. Warranty and Return Boards: A visual display board that tracks warranty and return rates and allows everyone in the plant to see the customer's experience with the product and take action to improve customer satisfaction.

 

Visual Factory implementation for improving productivity

Below are some visual tool examples that can be implemented in a factory setting to help improve personnel training and productivity:

  1. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Boards: A visual display board that shows the SOPs for each process and workstation. This allows everyone in the plant to see the correct procedures and work together to improve productivity and quality.

  2. Training Boards: A visual display board that tracks training progress and completion for each employee. This allows managers to see who has received training and who needs additional training, and to take action to improve employee productivity and quality.

  3. Performance Metrics Boards: A visual display board that tracks key performance metrics, such as production output, machine uptime, and attendance. This allows managers to see employee performance and take action to improve productivity and quality.

  4. Safety Metrics Boards: A visual display board that tracks key safety metrics, such as accident rates, near miss incidents, and safety training completion. This allows managers to see safety performance and take action to improve safety and productivity.

  5. Process Flow Boards: A visual display board that shows the process flow for each workstation. This allows employees to understand the process flow and work together to improve productivity and quality.

  6. Work Instruction Boards: A visual display board that shows the work instructions for each workstation. This allows employees to understand the work instructions and work together to improve productivity and quality.

  7. Production Schedule Boards: A visual display board that shows the production schedule for each workstation. This allows employees to understand the production schedule and work together to improve productivity and quality.

 

Visual Factory implementation for managing equipment maintenance

Below are examples of Visual Factory to help improve equipment maintenance. They can be used in combination with each other to provide a comprehensive view of equipment performance and allow the team to take action to improve it.

  1. Maintenance Schedule Boards: A visual display board that shows the maintenance schedule for each piece of equipment. This allows maintenance teams to see when equipment is due for maintenance and plan accordingly to minimize machine downtime.

  2. Maintenance Log Boards: A visual display board that tracks the maintenance history of each piece of equipment. This allows maintenance teams to see what has been done on the equipment and identify patterns of wear and tear that need to be addressed.

  3. Equipment Status Boards: A visual display board that shows the current status of each piece of equipment. This allows maintenance teams to see which equipment is in need of maintenance and which equipment is available for use.

  4. Spare Parts Inventory Boards: A visual display board that shows the inventory of spare parts for each piece of equipment. This allows maintenance teams to see what parts are available and plan accordingly to minimize downtime.

  5. Safety Checklist Boards: A visual display board that shows the safety checklists for each piece of equipment. This allows maintenance teams to ensure that equipment is safe to use before putting it back into service.

  6. Root Cause Analysis Boards: A visual display board that tracks the root cause of equipment breakdowns. This allows maintenance teams to identify the underlying cause of equipment problems and take steps to prevent them in the future.

  7. PM task Boards: A visual display board that shows the PM tasks (Preventive maintenance) for each equipment. This allows maintenance teams to schedule PM tasks on a regular basis to prevent equipment breakdowns and maximize uptime.

 

Leverage LiveView Visual Factory Software

LineView visual factory software can help you implement Visual Factory management from start to finish. From performing a comprehensive site audit to building internal awareness to ensure adoption to training and empowering your team after the implementation.

LineView allows your team to use visual data to its full potential, facilitating a seamless implementation of Visual Factory to improve your manufacturing process’s productivity and efficiency. 

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